Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, this year Mental Health Awareness Week takes place between 14 – 20 May. Research has shown that two-thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes. Saltbox’s Church Liason Officer, Tim Lucas, shares his thoughts on mental wellbeing and what more we can do to support those in times of need.
Last week, the popular TV soap Coronation Street followed the storyline of three characters: each of whom struggled with a form of mental illness, and one of whom committed suicide.
A few weeks earlier, at the end of March, ITV placed 84 statues at the top of its building in London to highlight the harrowing truth that an average of 84 men a week commit suicide, making it the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45, an average of one suicide every two hours. Male suicide makes up 75% of suicides for this age bracket, meaning that an additional 28 women per week commit suicide.
At some point in their lives, 1/3 of all people will struggle with some form of mental health issue, the intensity and outcomes of which will vary for each person.
These are important statistics to mention, especially since this week is Mental Health Awareness Week. Throughout 14-20 May, we are being encouraged to make ourselves aware of mental illnesses, and the effects that they have on so many people throughout the world. It is imperative that we do not overlook this.
In my experience, we as Christians have not always been very good at talking about mental health. Many times, we find it far easier to debate the theology of a condition, thinking that if we can ‘just find out’ the source or purpose of it then all will be well. Or alternatively, we look at the statistics and think that somehow that will be enough.
Both fall short of recognising that behind the illness, behind the statistics, are people. Yes, knowledge and understanding of poor mental health is necessary, but it should not stand alone; it must be teamed with a care and concern for each individual affected by those mental health conditions.
During Mental Health Awareness Week, I encourage you to find out more about mental illnesses and some of the things you can be aware of when it comes to helping those who struggle with poor mental health. Read statistics and stories (there is an abundance of both online), and make yourself available to people, especially those who have nobody else.
That may mean being an ear to talk to, a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold, or a friend to sit in silence with. The simplest of acts can make all the difference to someone.
If you are struggling with how you feel, please talk to someone. There is a great deal of help available, whether that be CALM, Samaritans, Mind, or a GP; or perhaps a good starting point for you is simply to talk to a friend or family member. Nobody will think any less of you for it, and you will have taken a huge step towards help and recovery.
The world is better for having you in it.
You are not alone.
Tim Lucas (Saltbox Church Liason Officer)